Cruising’ the Castro

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Recently, we caught with a dear friend of ours Kathy Amendola.  Kathy is an LGBT entrepreneur  who owns and runs Cruising’ the Castro

Cruisin the Castro

Tell us a little about the history of the tour

Incredibly, “Cruising’ the Castro”, is celebrating its “20th” Birthday this year!  And it all began in 1989 when a lesbian named, Evelyn Foundren, a.k.a. Trevor Hailey, saw the need both educationally as well as, culturally to share the rich and colorful history of the LGBT community in San Francisco hence, ”Cruisin’ the Castro” tours was created.

In 2005 after 16 years, Trevor decided to retire and this is when I had purchased the business 4 years ago.  Since then, Trevor has passed on but her legacy remains and although under new leadership, the tours continue to change lives in so many ways.

Tell us about Trevor Hailey

There aren’t enough words to describe Trevor!  She was an amazing human being who after being raised in the Mississippi, served as a Navy nurse during the Vietnam War and somehow found herself stationed in San Francisco.  How convenient was that for a lesbian?! 

Trevor had the ability to make people feel at ease and welcomed no matter what part of the globe or closet they came from.  She was quick with a smile and a joke and instilled not only knowledge of a “culture” that she felt so passionate about, but pride as well.

How many tours have been given?

Between Trevor and I, tens of thousands of people have cruised the Castro with us in the past 20 years. And currently tours are available 6 days a week from Monday to Saturday. I’m also excited to announce that I’ve added and additional “Harvey Milk Tour” on Wednesdays from 10am-1pm. This powerful tour explores the Castro where Harvey lived and worked as well as, City Hall where he served his community and was ultimately murdered. Tour also includes the temporary GLBT Historical Society’s Castro exhibit too. So now, Cruisin’ the Castro Tours offers two tours, the “Historical Gay Culture Tour” and the “Harvey Milk Tour.”

Why is LGBT history so important

Because our community is not recognized as a “culture” but rather perhaps, as an alternative lifestyle or even worse, a perversion, in reality this is absolutely not the case.  Just because we all look different doesn’t mean we don’t share a common bond and that bond in our culture is sexual “fluidness”, (yes, I did make that word up but it works!).

I once had a lesbian from Amsterdam on my tour who asked me why we needed a gay community and do you know, it took me 2 hours to answer that question!  The bottom line is, that if we have no unity, then we have no voice. If we have no voice, then we have no power. Perhaps it’s an American thing, but all cultures have a community, Chinatown, Little Italy, Japantown….so what’s wrong with Gaytown?  Again, people fail to think of us as a culture and this is all part of the education process on tour.

What is your favorite part of the tour?  How has the tour changed over the years?

That’s easy, I love talking about sex and sexuality!  Since taking over the tours from Trevor 4 years ago, my tours have evolved as I not only incorporate the wealth of history that she shared but I talk a lot about diversity and sexual fluidness as its one of our basic instincts and the foundation of our culture.  I create a safe, confidential environment that allows people to open up and share their stories with ease if they choose to. It’s been an incredible experience, especially how people sexually identify themselves.  To be honest, we’re all doing the same thing it’s just that we all have different labels for it based on our comfort levels. This is why I empower people to push past their comfort zones because we have to break down these barriers and talk about things. I truly believe sexuality is something so beautiful and positive that we have to embrace it with pride.  This is not only how we change ourselves but the world as well.

Speaking of pride, I’ve added a new addition to the “Historical Gay Culture Tour”, which is the “Rainbow Honor Walk” project created by Isak Lindenauer Antiques store located on 19th Street.  Isak has proposed that the Castro neighborhood honor great people in history that were either gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender or even great supporters that have made a huge impact on society.  He has a list of 150 names which include Sir Winston Churchill & Eleanor Roosevelt, both bi-sexual to name just a few.  These names will be place in rainbow cement plaques with brass lettering up and down Castro Street honoring our great LGBT history.

How did the filming of Milk impact the tour?

Absolutely, several things happened, it woke people up and the best part is, it woke a lot of heterosexual people up who have become very curious about the gay rights movement now. 

Another thing the movie did, was educate so many people about our history as this all happened over 30 years ago and some of us were either too young or for me, too young & too straight to know or care what was going on in San Francisco then.

Lastly, the movie’s inaccuracy was actually a blessing because during the times of Harvey Milk, the Castro was dominated by white men with very little deviations.  If you looked out in the crowds during the movie, you would see every color, gender, sexuality and nationality which is truly a great thing because now anyone, anywhere in the world watching it could see their own faces in the crowd and feel pride.

What’s the deal with the Castro Theatre’s ceiling?

Its wainscoting which could be metal, leather or cardboard. In this case, it’s cardboard and because of 80 years of nicotine build up in the smoking section to the right side of the theatre, its peeling and they’re having a difficult time restoring that section.

Any famous people take the tour? 

I keep inviting Oprah & Gail but hmmm…that would give them away wouldn’t it?

Where can folks learn about the tour?

or just call me at 415-255-1821 

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